A burglary and murder suspect, who allegedly committed heinous crimes on Thursday afternoon and got arrested in Chilobwe, Blantyre, had apparently little knowledge about what his actions would cause.
Yesterday, angry community members descended on Chilobwe Police Unit—where the suspect was being kept—stoning it and wanting to set it ablaze, rendering Chilobwe into a ‘no-go-zone’ following teargas that ensued.
Teargas engulfed the larger part of the township as police, reinforced by officers from some surrounding units such as Soche Police Sub-Station, fired teargas canisters to disperse the angry community members who were demanding the head of the suspect.
One resident, who only identified himself as Chirwa, said in a telephone interview that his family was put under severe distress as his house is located along the Chilobwe Road, around Chirani Clinic.
“Police have fired teargas canisters right into my compound as they were targeting some women that escaped into my compound. They were also trying to chase some young men that put up fire on the road, near my house.
“So you can imagine the smoke from the fire and the teargas. We have nowhere to run to. We have a child in the house I also have a five-year-old grandchild who is asthmatic,” Chirwa said.
He said he went to hospital with the grandchild on Thursday for asthma treatment, and yesterday’s teargas incident worsened the the child’s condition.
“We are disadvantaged from both sides, the angry community putting up fire right in front of our house is creating trouble for us and the police, which was supposed to protect us, is causing more harm to us by this teargas firing,” Chirwa complained.
But Southern Region Police spokesperson Ramsey Mushani said any harm caused to innocent citizens was regrettable, explaining that police’s intention was to bring order and protect property and lives of people.
According to Mushani, on Thursday afternoon the suspect broke into a house of a Chilobwe-based businessperson in Chatha Village, with an intention to steal.
While inside, according to the news that spread yesterday, which police confirmed, the suspect came face-to face-with a child of the businessperson—home alone. Fearing the little child would reveal him, he mercilessly knifed him and covered the body in blankets and escaped.
When the angry community members got the news that the suspect had been arrested and kept at Chilobwe Police Unit, they demanded police to hand him over to them for mob justice.
This led to running battles between the community—some of whom blocked roads—and the police, while the teargas canisters spread into the houses of innocent people who were then forced to flee from their homes.
But by that time, according to police sources, the suspect was whisked away in an armoured vehicle to another police station.
Mushani said members of the public must learn that they cannot take the law into their own hands, warning that the “unbecoming behaviour” of attacking police structures and blocking roads may bear nasty consequences as officers are allowed by law to use their weapons in situations they deem appropriate.
Mushani said police took all required steps by arresting the man and were taking statements from him and following all other processes to put him on remand, awaiting court appearance.
By late afternoon yesterday, the angry members of the community were still on the street, burning tyres and blocking the road to Chilobwe.